“People are starving to death” (Christiane Taubira)

Mrs Minister

I have been living in Burkina Faso since 1965 and in 2004 I took part in the setting up of a coalition under the motto: “No Economic Partnership Agreements without Food Sovereignty.” We wanted to demonstrate our refusal to negotiate Economic Partnership Agreements without prior recognition of the right to Food sovereignty.

On your side you submitted your report on June 16th 2008 on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) to President Nicolas Sarkozy, with the subtitle: « “What if Politics finally got involved in world affairs?” »

On this occasion your reply to a question from the press was:

“People are starving to death!”

You were right in being indignant. VYou made it clear that reacting to hunger in Africa (and in the Caribbean and the Pacific regions) by creating free trade agreements, which would enrich Europeans, is tragic and ignominious. You said, speaking of the participants in the FAO World Food Summit in Rome in July 2008 (and I thank you for doing so):

“Those are people comfortably settled in their bubble, making speeches but saying nothing of substance. This is no longer a time for unblocking funds for food aid. Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are releasing such money. For 25 years these institutions have been bringing the nations in the South to their knees with their structural adjustment programmes and today they hand out emergency food aid. Stop fooling us. People are starving to death!”

Thank you for your indignation. But indignation is no longer enough. Today the situation in West Africa is even worse than in 2008. This morning yet again I heard the RFI (Radio France Internationale) broadcasting the following, with regard to Mali: “It is not that foodstuffs do not reach the villages, it is the fact that people do not have the money to buy them”. A new way must be found.

Today you belong to a government which can make its voice heard all over the world. You are part of the new government of the Republic of France. Thank you for conveying your indignation (and your report!) to all the members of your government and in particular to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Mr Stéphane Le Folland to the Under-Secretary of State in charge of Development at Foreign Affairs, Mr PascalCanfin.

No, indignation is no longer sufficient. Today you are in the ranks of power. The issue of hunger and therefore of Agriculture and Food has become global. It is also an issue of justice. The President-elect Mr Hollande said this on the evening of his election: «“The 6th of May should be a great day for our country, a new start for Europe and new hope for the world;” ». The new President and your government cannot pretend to give new hope to the entire world, without giving it to all those who starve in the world.

You were the initiator of a Bill of May 10, 2001 « “to establish the public recognition of trafficking in humans and slavery as crimes against humanity”, » stating in Article 1: “The Republic of France recognises as crimes against humanity the transatlantic trafficking in Negroes and the trafficking in the Indian Ocean on the one hand and slavery on the other, committed from the 15th Century and onwards, in the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and in Europe of populations from Africa, the Americas, Madagascar and India,” I thank you for this.

But do you know that the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria made the following statement on the 19th of March this year:

“The Economic Partnership Agreements is a second slavery”

How can one indeed believe the European Commission when it declares that countries which have not managed to develop, in spite of 35 years of protection and free access to the European market,will all of a sudden be able to come out of their poverty, when their own market will be 80% open to European exports? . » (EPA report 2011)

Today a new way must urgently be found. And as you yourself wrote, it has to be builtaround the right to food and food sovereignty.

I end by quoting one paragraph of your report:

“International legislation, meticulously braided together around the right to food for populations and individuals: this is the act of civilisation that will prove that we have entered into this millennium divested of centuries of barbarism.”

Koudougou, June 22nd, 2012
Maurice Oudet
Director, SEDELAN

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